NEW YORK (AP) ¿ An analyst for Robert W. Baird and Co. on Monday predicted a strong year for shares of companies that make dental products, saying sales of disposable items and equipment will improve.

Analyst Jeff Johnson upgraded shares of Patterson Cos. and Young Innovations Inc. to "Outperform" from "Neutral," and kept "Outperform" ratings on four other companies. The stocks did better than the market in 2009, but Johnson said share prices and profits should rise this year.

Johnson cautioned that industry results might not start to improve for another three to six months. He said Henry Schein Inc. is his top pick in the group, and kept positive ratings on Sirona Dental Systems Inc., Dentsply International Inc. and American Dental Partners Inc.

The analyst said consumer spending is increasing, and spending on dental procedures typically rebounds faster than total spending during times of recovery. He said orders for dental equipment picked up in late 2009 and that backlogs for the first quarter of 2010 are growing.
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